After a tough contract renegotiation, Jennings was truly free of the Nashville machine. Free to produce his own records, free to say what he wanted, and free to record what and where he pleased. The full fruition of these freedoms can be found on this landmark 1973 release.
It's surprising to find that this most un-Nashville album was recorded at the very heart of all that Jennings was rebelling against musically: RCA's "Nashville Sound" studio. That it sounds absolutely nothing like the prevailing Nashville pop is a tribute to Jennings, his co-producer (Tompall Glaser), his band (The Waylors), his songwriter for this album (Billy Joe Shaver), and the sympathetic players Jennings brought in for the sessions. A further surprise is the lengthy list of musicians, given the relative spareness of the productions.
Whether or not the legend of a drunk Jennings promising Shaver he'd record his songs is true, it's clear that no other songwriter of the day so vividly captured the singer's ethos. The songs combine outlaw rebellion, mythical storytelling, and a sense of all-out relief at being able to finally say what's on one's mind. Its sentiments, couched in minimal arrangements, remain as salty and vibrant as the day they were recorded.
Buddha's reissue adds two bonus tracks to the original ten: Shaver's "Slow Rollin' Low" and the single version of Shaver & Jennings' "You Ask Me To," both of which match the quality of the original LP lineup. The original liner notes (by Roger Schutt) are augmented by a 1999 essay from Rich Kienzle that adds an excellent historical perspective.